Story Chasing

If there’s one thing that’s annoyed my mum to no end over the years, it’s that I’m what she calls (roughly translated) a “half-filled bucket”. That is, I’ve never stuck with anything that I’ve started. It started with tennis, back in primary school. It was fun, and I eventually got a racquet, but I never loved it enough to spend my spare time practising. So after a few years of going nowhere, it was unceremoniously tossed out as a potential career option and I lost all interest in playing. Then there were the dance classes. I took them up because I wanted to join my cousins, but it required copious amounts of musicality, memorisation and coordination. The first two I could fake by copying the person in front of me, but that darned coordination! I got over that phase pretty quickly.

Piano was another fleeting interest. Most people are shocked when they hear that my mum is a piano teacher, but I couldn’t play a piece to save my life. My repertoire extends to a two-handed version of Hot Cross Buns, and Twinkle Twinkle if it’s a good day. I gave it a try, but quickly realised that loving music wasn’t exactly the same thing as loving to play it. Especially after you’ve practiced Chariots of Fire for the hundredth time that week, and it still sounds like Chariots on Fire. I think it was actually a relief for everyone in the household when I decided that piano wasn’t for me.

If I list everything, it could take days. Badminton, taekwondo, guitar, Chinese… I’m going to stop now, in case my parents ever read this and realise how much they wasted on me. But looking back, I realised there was one passion that never left me over all those years–a passion for a good story. Some people chase skirts, others chase storms… I chase stories, wherever they may be.

I chased them from the world of books as they spread into video games. To that end I taught myself about computers. I learned about their components, how to build them, and what all those strange numbers to do with gigahertz or megabytes meant. I learned enough to know what I would need to play certain games–games where people had raved over the incredible storylines. They were right.

I continued chasing them into other languages. Unlike most TV shows in the Western world, Asian shows tend to have a clearly delineated start and end. This forces the writers to know where they’re going from the beginning and how they want to get there. Plotting is tighter, pacing doesn’t drag and twists aren’t added for the sake of drawing people in for another season. Basically, it makes for good stories. To that end, I immersed myself in the world of Asian TV. What actors were known for creating strong emotional resonance, what directors had clear visions for the shows. If it was adapted from a novel, I’d look into the novelist.

I chased the stories right back into books–Japanese comics, which cover just as wide a range of age levels and subjects as novels. I finally found the motivation to learn Chinese again, as the Chinese translations came out faster and cost considerably less than the English translations.

And now, I’ve chased them all the way into my own head, where the ideas from all these disparate sources have stewed over all these years and are waiting to be crafted into stories of their own. But regardless of where they come from, each story is an exquisite piece of work in its own right. Stories are my passion; even more so than a well-turned phrase, skilful cinematography, or beautiful drawings. Tell me what happens, who’s changed, how it all ends. Give me plot twists, emotional rollercoasters, character growth, and a climax that brings it all together, and I will be the happiest girl you ever did see.

No matter what happens, I will never give up on finding good stories. I’m going to keep chasing them through whatever forms they continue evolving into. I’ll chase them through languages, through continents, and through whatever mad rituals I have to undertake to find them, for they will always be my passion, and my first love. I’ll do whatever it takes. Even if I have to go to Outer Mongolia and learn to play the khuur while dancing the Tsam to do so.

Leanne Yong is an aspiring author who is working on her second young adult novel. Check out her blog at Clouded Memories for more information and a journal chronicling her latest foray into novel writing.


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